Eight Bells: Harry R. Keene, Sr.

Published on July 15th, 2021

Harry R. Keene, Sr., former owner of Edson, crossed the bar on July 11, 2021. He was 96 years.

Henry was employed as the General Manager of The Edson Corporation in 1956. In 1960, he had the opportunity to purchase the company and made the leap from employer to owner. With fiberglass boat building boom about to take off, and with three young mouths to feed, he jumped in with both feet.

While he was not a trained engineer, he had a sharp mind for how things could be built. Also, he had a team of machinists who kept looking for better, faster, and more efficient ways to do their jobs.

In the mid-1960s, Edson moved its facility to the new Industrial Park in the north end of New Bedford, MA. A new building was a breath of fresh air for the venerable Edson brand. The sailboat business exploded in the 1970s creating a need for more space and equipment to keep up with demand.

In the hours when Henry was not working at Edson, he was busy building a 26-foot Amphicion sailboat in his garage for his wife and young family. He also traveled to all the major boat shows around the United States, with the New York show in the Coliseum being the biggest in the country.

Edson’s growth continued throughout the 60s and 70s, dominating the international market as well as in the USA. Edson’s stature continued to grow, and Henry became involved with the National Marine Manufacturers Association. He served on their board of directors for two terms, as well as on the board of National Association of Marine Products and Services, which was the predecessor to the current “accessory board”.

In 1989, Henry sold Edson to his two sons, Will and Hank, who continued the Keene Family stewardship of Edson for a total of 65 of its 163 year history.

Henry is predeceased by his grandson Tucker Keene and survived by his children Susan Malcom and her husband David, Hank Keene Jr. and his wife Andrea, and Will Keene and his wife Fran; grandchildren Diana, Alex, Alina, Lindsey, Abby, Spencer; and nine great grandchildren.

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